Summer is all about taking it easy, and nothing in the garden could be easier than annual vines grown from seed. My favorites are so easy that some even reseed themselves each year. Annual vines are great for scrambling over fences, climbing unattractive walls, softening corners and adding vertical punctuation to large containers.
Annual vines also may be grown alongside perennial vines. By allowing annual and perennial vines to intertwine, gardeners can enjoy flowers through the year and maximize the use of trellis space.
For example, evergreen Armand clematis spans the trellis over our garage. After the sweetly scented white flowers fade each spring, annual moonvine (Ipomoea alba) follows with a nighttime spectacle all summer long!
Moonvine is the rebel of the morning glory family. While other members of the genus bloom as the sun rises, moonvine flowers dazzle at night. These nocturnal flowers are heavily perfumed, making them a wonderful addition to porches and patios where they can be enjoyed in the cool of the evening. The heady fragrance is also a beacon for beautiful moths that follow their nose to find nectar and pollinate the flowers in the dark.
I recommend spending at least one summer evening watching the plump flower buds literally unfurl before your eyes. Like ladies in shimmering white skirts spinning on stage, these dinner plate-size flowers glow in the twilight. New flowers appear on stage nightly, but individual flowers debut for one night only. Allow flowers to die on the vine and seedpods to form. Collect seeds for replanting or allow moonvine to reseed freely for a repeat performance next season.
Add some sizzle to your July fourth celebration with Firecracker vine (Mina lobata syn. Ipomea lobata syn. Ipomoea versicolor, syn. Quamoclit lobata). Just like its many synonymous scientific names, this tropical beauty has many common names as well, including exotic love vine, Spanish flag vine and fire vine. Native to Central and South America, Firecracker vine is also in the morning glory or Convolvulaceae family.
Hummingbirds love the showy masses of tubular flowers on the stems of this tender perennial vine and gardeners love the spectacular focal point the vine brings to the garden. Each flower spike emerges in fiery reds and oranges and mellows to cool and creamy yellows making it a real conversation starter.
Another conversation piece is tropical and edible Malabar spinach. This Asian vegetable is also known as Indian spinach or Lo Kui. While there is a green-stemmed variety (Basella alba), most American gardeners grow the vigorous red-stemmed type (Basella rubra) for its ornamental qualities. This truly tropical vine is perfectly at home during our hot, humid summers and thrives when summer storms bring torrential downpours.
The glossy green leaves have a ruffled appearance, similar to spinach, but that is where the similarity ends. The flavor of the young leaves is more like Swiss chard than spinach and is often enjoyed in salads and stir-fries.
The leaves have a mucilaginous quality, much like okra, that make it effective as a thickening agent for soup and stews.
Even if you don't enjoy it for supper, this vine is beautiful enough to grow anyway.
Warm-season annual vines should be planted in spring after danger of frost, or started indoors 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost. All of these fast growing vines require full sun, moderately moist, well-drained soil and something to support them as they grow.
In addition, each of the vines mentioned has a hard seed coat that should be soaked overnight to soften prior to planting to aid in germination.
The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener program will offer its next volunteer training course beginning Sept. 18. Applications for the course are now being accepted online at www.clemson.edu/extension/mg/counties/tri_county/.
All interested candidates must apply by Aug. 8.
Clemson Extension is offering a Pesticide Safety and Calibration Workshop at 8:30 a.m. July 18 at the Coastal Research and Education Center.
The workshop will include six classes: sprayer calibration, spreader calibration, weed ID and management, disease and insect ID in ornamentals, fire ant management and a spray drift demonstration.
The pre-registration fee of $75 includes lunch, six classes and six pesticide credits.
For more information, contact Zack Snipes at 722-5940, ext. 123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register, go to https://shopping.clemson.edu
Amy L. Dabbs is the urban horticulture extension agent and Tri-County Master Gardener coordinator for the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Send questions to email@example.com